Day 8 of our trip included a drive and overnight stay at the Nueva Allianza coffee cooperative. The day started with very picturesque and extremely bumpy ride into the Nueva Allianza community where we were treated to an amazing lunch. We then jumped quickly into a tour of the community and an overview of the process to make coffee. I was amazed at the amount of work that it takes to produce a cup of coffee. According to our host, it takes 50 hours and 100+ people to produce a cup of coffee. Immediately, I was reminded of the countless cups of coffee I have thrown and took a vow to my students to never waste another cup. The host also provided a quick overview of the other projects the community is involved with which included a water purification project, macadamia nut production and eco tourism. The Day 8 concluded with a bon fire and overview of the current state of the community by another community leader. The discussion included an honest overview that many of the communities projects have somewhat halted because of internal disagreements amongst the board members.
Day 9 started with a great hike led by a community host to watch one of the most amazing sunrises I have seen. I was extremely appreciative and reflective as I shared the moment with several students who quietly watched the sun peak up from behind the beautiful Guatemalan landscape.
The day ended with a walk around the community and an overview of the many plants the community uses to help with ailments. The community leader stated that although many of the native names for the plants have been lost, the community still knows much of what their purpose is. We then said our goodbyes to the Nueva Alianza community and thanked them graciously for the warm welcome, delicious food and honest portrayal of the victories and challenges they encountered while trying to sustain their projects.
The picture below is of coffee plant production site. Aside, from time and effort to produce a single cup of coffee stated above, the community leader stated there are several months and steps in the process to get a coffee plant to the point of producing beans. During one of the discussion with a community members we got a more in depth education about the meaning of fair trade and organic labels in relation to coffee production. Although, these are terms I usually look for as a “conscious consumer” I was surprised to hear of the certification process a grower must abide to in order to get these stamps of approval. The community member also stated that the labeling of free trade and organic products has also become somewhat of a political game in that the more labels a product has the better it is supposed to be. However, he countered this assertion by stating each label comes at a production cost for the grower which sheds light on the inequities of smaller growers trying to stay competitive in a global market.